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Grilled Eggplant Caponata Gratin

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Ingredients

For the caponata sauce

1 red onion, minced

½ fennel bulb, minced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

¼ cup raisins or currants

2 tablespoons green olives, minced

2 tablespoons za’atar spice blend

1 pinch red chile flakes

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

2 tablespoons minced thyme leaves

2 tablespoons minced oregano leaves

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 cups tomato puree

2 cups vegetable stock

Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the eggplant

6-8 small Italian eggplants, sliced about ½-inch thick

6-8 small tomatoes, sliced about ½-inch thick

1 pound fresh mozzarella in brine, sliced about ¼-inch thick

1 cup pistachios, lightly crushed

1 heaping cup torn fresh herbs, such as Thai basil, mint, parsley, and basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Make the caponata sauce: Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, and sweat onion, fennel, and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add raisins, olives, za’atar, chile flakes, sugar, cocoa, thyme, and oregano. Sauté another 5 minutes. Deglaze with vinegar and add tomato puree and stock. Bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust for seasoning—the sauce should be a little sweet, a little sour, and a little salty. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Make the eggplant: Preheat grill to high. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. The eggplant should be tender but not cooked completely through.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread a thin layer of caponata sauce on bottom of large ovenproof dish. Alternate layering slices of eggplant, mozzarella, and tomato in a tight pattern until dish is full. Top with more sauce. Bake in oven until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle pistachios and herbs before serving.
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